Thursday, February 25, 2010

Witness to War

I went to see a photography exhibition entitled Witness to War in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar earlier today. The exhibition contains 167 photographs of events that took place in Ireland between 1920 and 1923 during the War of Independence and the subsequent civil war. They were taken by photo journalist WD Hogan. It was simply brilliant and for anyone interested in this period of Irish history the exhibition is a must. Most of the pictures are from Dublin, however the images that stuck me most were of Cork City Center after it was burned by the Black N Tans on the 11th of December 1920 in retaliation for continued attacks on the security forces. I have heard about this incident many times and if I'm honest I always suspected my Cork friends were ever so slightly exaggerating the severity of the attack. I was however stunned by the photos I saw today. I managed to take one snap with my camera phone before an employee scolded me.

Look at this ! Its unbelievable. It looks like London during the blitz. Over five acres of the city were burnt in retaliation for recent attacks, the most famous of which was the Kilmichael ambush that killed 18 British soldiers outside Cork the previous week. In any event this incident caused severe embarrassment for the authorities in London and almost brought down the government of Loyd George. Burning Southern Ireland's second largest city did not do Britain's image much good internationally. Irish America in particular was outraged and began funnelling money to the underground Irish government. The conflict would become increasingly nastier after this until the truce was signed in July 1921.

There is much more to see at the exhibition. If anybody is around the city center over the next two months I highly recommend they take a look.

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